Don't Take Me Out To The Ballgame!
The best way to get kids to enjoy softball, or other things you like.
The below story also appears in the current print edition of Dan’s Papers. I didn’t end up playing in today’s 74th Annual Artists & Writers Game because I finally got Covid; fortunately, it seems I haven’t infected anyone. I’m doing ok—worst part is having to quarantine from baby Riley. Enjoy the piece!
You never want to make the final out of a ballgame. You really never want to make the final out of a ballgame on the basepaths. And you really, really never want to make the final out of a ballgame, on the basepaths, when one of your teammates is bestselling author and softball firebrand Mike Lupica.
I learned this last summer when, after smacking a single to keep the Writers’ hopes alive, I committed a game-ending baserunning blunder. Immediately, I ran over to the emotional leader of our squad to apologize for the miscue, wondering aloud what the hell I’d been thinking. And Mike began to wonder aloud, too, with similar phraseology.
But before he could elaborate, Carl Bernstein swooped in and gave me a pat on the back, saying something to the effect of: “Never mind him!”
Softball, after all, is a family affair. Carl and my father have an ex-wife in common—the late, great writer Nora Ephron—whom I encountered as a toddler at the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton, immediately concluding she was also my ex-mom. My actual mom and dad, Suzanne O’Malley and Dan Greenburg, both authors as well, were once regulars at the game (and still make appearances from time to time).
In May, I became a father myself. And I can’t wait to share my love of softball with my daughter, Riley. That’s why I’m not bringing her to the game this year.
You see, I’m pretty sure the reason I became obsessed with sports is that nobody made me play. I remember briefly detesting baseball when some cousins tried to force me into a game with them when I was five or six. But my parents never pushed me like that, and I gravitated toward playing ball as a result.
The theme continued through my adult life. When I first joined Forbes as a summer intern, the softball team’s captain ignored me for a couple of seasons. A decade-and-a-half later, we’re still playing together for the Capitalist Tools in the New York Media Softball League, even though we’ve both long since left the publication.
Spending the third Saturday of every August in my twenties relegated—ironically—to pinch-running duties on Ken Auletta’s squad out east only stimulated my appetite to play more Artists & Writers softball in my thirties.
My career as a scribe followed a similar arc. Growing up, my author parents never seemed to want me to join the family business. They’ve since informed me that, when I was an infant, they’d sidle up to my crib and whisper the word “Arbitrage!” Something tells me they weren’t trying to prompt their only child to become a business writer.
I suppose it’s human nature, for some of us anyway, to do the opposite of what we’re told—or, at least, to gravitate toward things we aren’t forced to do. Hence the decision to refrain from bringing Riley to the Artists & Writers Game this year (also, it’s really hot). I won’t push her to play softball as she gets older, either—let her make that call.
And I’m also quite sure I won’t push her to follow in my professional footsteps, though that sounds like a surefire way to end up with a third-generation Artists & Writers Game player in the family.
If that should happen, just go easy on her, ok Lupica?
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